SANTA CLARA — For many Bay Area families, this Thanksgiving celebration will mark the first big holiday gathering since the start of the pandemic, with some health experts advising caution.
While doctors want to encourage loved ones to reconnect during holiday weekend, they say people should also keep in mind important guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
Santa Clara resident Archita Mandal has family visiting her home for Thanksgiving. She said it’s the first time she feels safe having everyone together.
“The kids have grown up in the last two years and we haven’t been able to see our nephews and nieces and the cousins haven’t gotten together, so we’re really looking forward to having this really awesome meal,” she said.
Dr. Peter Chin-Hong tells KPIX the Bay Area is in a better place this Thanksgiving compared to the last two years. He points to more tools and a better, updated vaccine booster for COVID-19. But he also worries about other viruses like RSV, influenza, and the common cold.
Dr. Chin-Hong recommends getting the booster as soon as you can and having a plan to get access to the medication Paxlovid if someone gets infected with COVID. Masks may still be necessary, and he advises testing as soon as you experience symptoms or three days after you were exposed by someone else.
“It’s still very unpredictable, the only thing predictable about COVID is that we can’t know what’s going to happen regarding its curve,” said Dr. Chin-Hong.
Mandal has yet to test positive for COVID-19 and she wants to keep it that way. She is also mindful of protecting her high-risk family members who could not see loved ones for Thanksgiving during the pandemic. They would have loved to invite friends, but felt they needed to keep the celebration to family because of the potential spread still out there.
“I have taken whatever guidelines I was trying to follow it to my best ability, but was never paranoid,” she said.
Dr. Chin-Hong says babies six months and younger as well as those over 65 remain most at risk this holiday season for the triple-threat of infectious diseases happening this fall. He says symptoms look similar for the various viruses so the need to get tested remains essential. He does advise anyone who feels sick to stay home and avoid infecting others.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing necessarily to think about protecting ourselves and our community in a much more deliberate and thoughtful way,” Chin-Hong said.
Mandal told KPIX she is out of practice as a host since these large gatherings have not been possible most of the pandemic. But this weekend, she will be grateful for the chance to come together with family and remember the hard work of healthcare workers and scientists that made it all possible.
“It was nice because I was just looking forward to doing this for a long time and finally it’s here,” Mandal said. “Just be safe, be kind, be thankful.”
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